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    Posted February 20, 2015 by
    Bo, Sierra Leone
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    On the front lines of Ebola

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    1686….that’s my Number


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     Jonathan Bundu with World Vision photographed Maseray, who he described as the first and only female Ebola survivor to join a burial team in Sierra Leone, covered in protective gear and carrying an Ebola victim to be buried on February 18. The funeral Maseray was leading was for a baby who died in Bo, the second largest city in the country. Safe burials have become necessary to help prevent further outbreaks of Ebola. The virus is most contagious after a person has passed away from Ebola. These burials are a drastic change from the ritualistic process the people of Sierra Leone are accustomed to, according the Bundu. And, although watching the safe burials has been difficult for him, they have also been satisfying. "Back during the first days of the breakout, prior to the safe and dignified burial teams, people watched their loved ones being buried like dogs," he said. "The situation is far better as compared to five months back. However, the Ebola outbreak has crippled Sierra Leone’s steady progress in the area of health, education, economics and livelihoods."
    - Jareen, CNN iReport producer

    Maseray is the second female member in the Bo city burial team supported by World Vision. She joined the team to give back to her community after surviving the Ebola Viral Disease, which claimed the lives of her husband, sister and another close relative.

    After completing the one-week training course to ensure she is ready for her duties, Maseray is ready to carry out her first Safe and Dignified Burial. “I am ready for this day. I will execute all what I have being taught in the training,” she says.

    Upon getting the alert Maseray puts on personal protective equipment and helps clean the vehicle that will be used for the exercise. She’s then ready for the journey to the nearby Bendu Community. After a 20 minute drive from Coronation Field, where the burial teams wait for an alert from the command and control centre, we arrive in the community.

    As the head of the burial team begins to explain to the community members what is about to happen, I ask Maseray how she feels to learn she is here to bury a baby. “This is even more important for me, as a mother myself, it is really important for me to bury my fellow mother’s child in a safe and dignified way” expressed Maseray.

    After the team has spoken with the family, Maseray leads her colleagues to the house to collect the corpse. When Maseray brings the child out she holds it as a real mother would – with care. Normally the body of an Ebola victim is laid down while the Imam or Pastor say a brief prayer, but during these prayers Maseray continues to hold the child.

    As we tread through the forest to the gravesite Maseray carries the child close to her and walks slowly towards the grave. When I ask later if it was the heat from her protective clothing that was slowing her down she says, “No, I want to give this child a great farewell. I want to walk the child in peace.” As she lowers the child in to the grave Maseray does it slowly and then carefully covers the area with sticks. Finally Maseray takes a peg and puts it on the grave, saying: “1686 that’s my number”.

    Maseray is the burial team member that carried out the safe and dignified burial for the 1,686th person to be buried in Sierra Leone, after losing their fight against Ebola.

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